The philosophy the government is adopting regarding sexuality education resembles that taken by many Christian strong states in the United States. Research done of the US has found that young people who have been taught abstinence are just as likely to have pre-marital sex, and more likely to have sex without protection (since they are often taught it is wrong or useless). As a result, those states have been found to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).
Given that youth taught abstinence are just as likely to have sex, it is just a difference of whether they have sex with guilt and internal conflict or they have healthy and safe sexual relationships.
In contrast to the United States, Netherlands has a successful sexual education program. They have the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy and STIs in the world, while the US has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy among the developed countries. A study by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008 found that a shocking one in four US teenage girls have STIs. The president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said the study shows “the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure.”
Evangelical Protestant teenagers are more likely than Mormons, mainline Protestants and Jews to claim to believe in abstinence but are more sexually active than these groups. On average, white evangelical Protestants start having sex shortly after turning 16. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.
Moreover, greater than half of those who take Christian abstinence pledges end up having sex before marriage, and not usually with their future spouse.
Evangelical Protestants are also significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception. Regnerus found that only half of sexually active teenagers who say they seek guidance from God or the Scriptures when making a tough decision report using contraception every time. In contrast, 69% of sexually active youth who say that they most often follow the counsel of a parent or another trusted adult consistently use protection.
Sexuality education in the Netherlands is non-judgmental in that it does not promote a negative view of pre-marital sex. Instead of focussing on whether sex is done or not, it emphasizes mutual respect in a relationship. Moreover, there is space for open discussion of perspectives in class, so each individual can come to a responsible and positive decision him or herself.
This has not resulted in the teenagers of Netherlands ‘jumping at’ the chance to have sex – most teenagers do not have sex until they are about 17. The world average is estimated at 17.3 and in the United States it is 15.8.
Research by Regnerus has found that adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity. This demonstrates that exposure to knowledge and societal openness does not make one more likely to engage in something – similarly, educating teenagers about safe sex does not make them more likely to engage in sex. It allows them the option of having safe sex should they decide to have sex. Advocates for Youth has found that societal openness and comfort with teenage sexuality is one of the two reasons for better sexual health outcomes for teenagers in the Netherlands as compared to the US.
Is it a bad thing to provide a comprehensive education of sex that is not clouded in shame and negativity, and that will help young people make positive, well-informed choices?
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Sources and notes:
– “Red Sex, Blue Sex Why Do So Many Evangelical Teenagers Become Pregnant?” in NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION. Nov 3, 2008
– Mark Regnerus, sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, published these findings in his book “Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers”.
– Findings based on a national survey by Regnerus and colleagues and a comprehensive government study of adolescent health known as Add Health.
– According to sociologists Peter Bearman, of Columbia University, and Hannah Bruckner, of Yale, communities with high rates of pledging also have high rates of STIs.
– Red states ( those that generally advocate abstinence-only education and are against abortion) have the lowest median age of marriage and highest teenage pregnancy rates, as compared to blue states ( those that support sex education and are not particularly against premarital sex).
– http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_tee_bir_rat-people-teenage-birth-rate which cites UNICEF.
– Regularly since 1998, Advocates for Youth has sponsored study tours to France, Germany, and the Netherlands to explore why adolescent sexual health outcomes are more positive in these European countries than in the United States. The United States’ teen birth rate is nine times higher than the Netherlands. Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, and U.S. adolescent rate is almost 33 times greater than the reported teen rates the Netherlands.